Actual Madrid’s ‘madman’ Rudiger saves the day – and team-mates get their very own again


After a interval wherein there was fixed discuss round the necessity to signal one other centre-back, it was a centre-back who secured victory for Actual Madrid at residence to Mallorca.

Antonio Rudiger was the staff’s solely senior recognised participant within the place obtainable on Wednesday evening. Carlo Ancelotti’s facet began the season with 4 central defenders, however first Eder Militao after which David Alaba suffered anterior cruciate ligament accidents. Membership captain Nacho is the fourth, however he was suspended after being despatched off in Madrid’s earlier sport earlier than the Christmas break.

Rudiger’s 78th-minute header from Luka Modric’s nook supplied the important thing second. It was his second La Liga aim for Madrid — the primary, in September 2022, additionally got here in opposition to Mallorca. Victory meant Los Blancos reached the midway stage of the season as league leaders, above Girona on aim distinction (they beat Atletico Madrid 4-3 at residence afterward Wednesday to maintain up their exceptional run).

Rudiger reacted to his high-quality glancing header by lifting himself from the Santiago Bernabeu turf and working in direction of the nook flag in celebration. Earlier than reaching it, he knelt and put his head to the grass by the facet of the pitch, seemingly in prayer — he’s a deeply non secular particular person. Rapidly, Rodrygo arrived and started jokingly hitting him on the again. As Rudiger rose, different gamers adopted to point out their affection in the identical manner — Joselu, Modric and Jude Bellingham all joined within the play preventing.

To the informal observer, this response might have come as one thing of a shock, however for the overwhelming majority of Madrid supporters, it was virtually anticipated. Rudiger, 30, typically celebrates his team-mates’ objectives by chasing them and hitting them — in a pleasant manner. Now they have been getting their very own again.

Rudiger’s solely earlier La Liga aim additionally got here in opposition to Mallorca (Alvaro Medranda/High quality Sport Photos/Getty Photos)

The German discovered himself on the centre of consideration once more after the match when — now with out his shirt having given it to a fan within the crowd — Lucas Vazquez, a late substitute, additionally simulated a battle with him. However there have been different indicators of his particular place among the many group, too — together with Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior inviting him to bounce on his strategy to the dressing room.

“As we speak it was my flip (to get hit), I’ve to simply accept it, for me, it’s not an issue, it’s regular,” Rudiger mentioned after the match. “Subsequent sport Bellingham, Brahim or Vini will rating and I’ll hit them.”

Rudiger’s phrases led to a different query, however to know it higher, we first need to look again a month to Madrid’s Champions League away match at Union Berlin. Earlier than that sport, Vazquez was requested about Rudiger and whether or not he was “a bit loopy”. Laughing closely, he replied: “Only a bit?! As a superb madman, no person is aware of his secrets and techniques. He’s having a fantastic season, at an unimaginable stage.”

Yesterday, Rudiger was requested about this himself and answered freely: “Does it trouble me if individuals say I’m a bit loopy? No, as a result of I’m a bit loopy, however in a optimistic sense. I don’t have an issue. If individuals snigger, if all of us snigger, it’s high-quality.”

The reality is that the character Rudiger shows on the pitch, his at occasions uncommon reactions and gestures, the eccentricity that always defines his battles with opposition strikers, is far talked about and cherished by Madrid followers. His identify is commonly chanted from the stands. A collection of spectacular performances have additionally helped — the spotlight being how he efficiently shackled Manchester Metropolis’s Erling Haaland of their Champions League semi-final first leg at residence again in early Could.

Virtually concurrently as Rudiger was speaking about these particulars, Ancelotti was praising him in his post-match press convention.

“He has taken benefit of the accidents to the central defenders, which have been severe, and he’s taking part in at a really excessive stage and with continuity,” the Italian mentioned. “He’s at all times centered and prepared. He’s a security web on the again, he’s been the most effective thus far.”

Former Madrid and Germany participant Mesut Ozil was much more emphatic than Ancelotti. “Prime Toni Rudiger is simply the world’s finest defender for the time being,” he tweeted. “Unimaginable season for my former membership Actual Madrid. You may also ask Haaland or Osimhen how good he’s! Look what has occurred with Chelsea after he left… they’re lacking his mentality each day…”

Ozil’s phrases captured a sense that’s shared amongst many Madrid followers. Aurelien Tchouameni can have felt it, too — the Frenchman is having fun with Rudiger’s spectacular stage whereas he has to cowl at centre-back.

Ancelotti’s facet are actually unbeaten in 18 matches in all competitions. How becoming that it was Rudiger who helped crown the facet La Liga’s ‘winter champions’ amid a supposed defensive disaster.

(Prime photograph: Jose Breton/Pics Motion/NurPhoto by way of Getty Photos)


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